Changes in ownership at large garden retailers are bringing more growers to the seventh HTA National Plant Show (NPS) at Stoneleigh Park. The supermarkets have been switching suppliers, while DIY/garden centre Homebase has a new owner in Wesfarmers and will now approach the whole business, including buying, differently.
Meanwhile, Wyevale Garden Centres continues to buy independents and consolidate supply. Dobbies could be the latest to come under the Terra Firma-owned behemoth's wing, leading to more requirement from some growers to find new customers.
New exhibitors this year are The Plant Yard, Butters Group, Kelly's Nursery, Kildare Growers, Porters Fuchsias, Rosemasters and Premium Christmas Trees. This means growers need to spread the load and see the show as the place to reach a lot of planteria buyers in one hit.
Butters Group new business development manager Carl Wilson says the firm's developing nursery business means the Spalding-based group is ideally placed to supply all manner of retailers. "We have our own 19.5-acre nursery now at Butters, whereas five years ago we were just trading."
Butters is known for supplying high street retailers such as Marks & Spencer and supermarkets but is now extending its range as broadly as Poundland and Squire's. "We want to get back to our roots and get back into garden centres," Wilson explains. "We do a lot of added-value products and source stock from all over Europe as well as growing our own bedding, fruit and herbs in our nursery."
Being a grower now means Butters can hit price points, while having a Hong Kong office means sourcing ceramics, wicker and rattan is easy, he adds. The £54m-turnover business has a £14m cut flower side, while the nursery turns over £4m. Wilson, formerly of Whartons and Morley Nurseries, hopes the scale will appeal to groups such as Blue Diamond, Wyevale and Dobbies.
Happy Plants branding
The NPS aims for a "back to basics approach to ensure the spotlight shines purely on the plants". Additionally, the new HTA "Village" showcases the trade body's services.
Also new in 2016 is the "Retail Concept Experience", which "will create a stimulating retail environment for visitors" using the HTA Market Information Garden Spender Segmentation as the steer.
The RHS-sponsored new plant awards follow on from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show plant of the year awards - its winners will be on display - and give an invaluable marketing push to winners. There are around 100 entries.
Exhibitors at the show range from bulbs to bedding to Christmas tree growers, varying in size from the very small to big growers and traders such as Butters and Glendale (18 million plants a year).
John Richards Nurseries is launching a new clematis in support of breast cancer charity funding. This follows on from the success of the Breast Cancer Rose launch by Nursery Fresh in 2015. 'Hope', bred by John Richards, is a free-flowering macropetala with pastel lavender-violet flower buds in early spring that open into sepals that are slightly ruffled on the edge. It is a pendulous shape with a spiky nodding flower.
Show first-timer Porters Fuchsias has new Happy Plants branding on a product range incorporating everything from pot and pack bedding to planted containers. The brand is geared towards independent garden centres/small multiples, with Porters "on a mission to help encourage, enthuse and educate gardeners".
Premium Christmas Trees, another first time exhibitor, will launch a new pot-grown range.
Benary will focus on its most recent introductions. 'Funky Pink' has "exceptional performance" in baskets and containers and will also be in the new product showcase. 'Santa Barbara' is a white variety to add to the current 'Santa Cruz' and 'San Francisco', and is designed for baskets. Nonstop Joy won gold at last year's NPS.
Chessum Roses will be launching a range of Harkness promotions for garden centres.
Raymond Evison will announce that New Leaf Plants, under the new ownership of David Higginson, will become the third brand grower of Raymond Evison Clematis.
Baldwins and Garden Centre Plants "have set the standard by growing such high-quality clematis plants for the brand" and will continue to grow and supply Raymond Evison Clematis to garden centres in the UK. Garden Centre Plants and New Leaf Plants will feature the branded plants on their exhibits at this year's NPS.
New Leaf will show the new for 2016 double red-flowered Clematis 'Charmaine'. The grower's new Clematis 'Dazzle', Clematis 'Pamina' and Clematis 'Temptation' will be on show too. New Leaf will also be launching new branding of point-of-sale material including new picture labels and boards.
Warwickshire-based Hawkesmill Nurseries, which grows more than 3.5 million plants throughout the year with a range in excess of 1,200 varieties, turns 40 this year.
Sales director Richard Evans says: "We look forward to the NPS every year. It's a show that brings together suppliers, buyers and influencers as well as the media. The show gives visitors the opportunity to see thousands of plant varieties from UK growers in the main. It's a great way for the visitors to view lots of stock all under one roof. It's a superb annual showcase that kicks off our selling season."
Hillier Nurseries will be previewing new plants for next season including the new-generation Hydrangea Kanmara Series and Lavandula 'Silver Line', a new English lavender bred to promote Dame Esther Rantzen's Silver Line charity.
Javado UK has extended its range of products. On top of the normal indoor and outdoor plants it is now possible to order bulb and perennial gift packs as well as root ball hedging, adding to the company's transport cost-efficiency.
Lowaters Nursery will be showing its new white Cirsium, Frosted Magic. Discovered at the nursery, the plant was shown at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants.
Osberton Nurseries, a specialist in rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, has new 7.5-litre ranges to include magnolias, dwarf lilacs, Hamamellis and sarcococca. The company has an environmental story to tell, showcasing its micro irrigation technique used to minimise water and power consumption, complemented with rainwater harvesting from its glasshouse roofs. Tractors have been replaced with electric buggies and 1,000 native trees and three miles of hawthorn hedgerows have been planted over the past five years.
UK plant breeders
Seiont Nurseries, now owned by Lovania Nurseries, has new introductions including Hebe 'Celebration', Tiarella 'Emerald Ellie' and 'Angel Wings', and Sambucus 'Serenade', all of which are from breeders based in the UK.
Bransford Webbs will celebrate promotions launched over the past 25 years, starting with Hebe 'Rosie', first launched in 1990, as well as its new plants for 2017.
Young Plants and Eagle Plants will exhibit together and owner Newey Group will be hosting an open week at its nearby nursery (Florafest, 20-24 June - www.florafest.info).
The HTA is working with panoramic partner Striking Places to put together a virtual tour of the main show feature areas including the new plant area, HTA Village and Hortipak Hub. Horticulture Week is media partner. The show also has a "Planting the Seed Award - Visitor Vote", highlighting those displays that capture the imagination, provide clear information and attract attention. Visitors will be asked to vote for their favourite stand display.
Last year's best plant display award winner was Wyevale Nurseries with its "bringing the inside out" concept, which featured a fully planted living room, hotly followed by Key Essentials and Parkers Nurseries with their simple but effective approaches in merchandising.
When 21-22 June
Where Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ
- Michael Perry (Thompson & Morgan).
- Dave Gillam (Abercorn Garden Centre).
- Consultant Andy Mcindoe (formerly of Hillier) on new plant award winners and how to merchandise them in planterias.
- Raoul Curtis Machin (HTA) will host the Plant Health focus session, Growing Media Spotlight and the British Protected Ornamentals Association's Home Grown Retailer Award.